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Sharpen your Axe: How Personal Development Can Simplify Your Life

"If I had six hour to chop down a tree, I'd spend the first four hours sharpening the axe." - Abraham Lincoln 

An axe is a cutting tool that consists of a heavy edged head fixed to a handle with with the edge parallel to the handle that is used especially for felling trees and chopping wood (Merriam Webster Dictionary). The axe is considered one of the most effective traditional tools for cutting trees. To effectively carry out this duty for which it is made, the edge of the axe must be well sharpened so it could cut through the wood with ease. 

In this context, your axe is the potential, gifts, talents and resources available to you as an individual. Your axe is the tool available to you to solve any problem. This could be your degrees, talents, inherent potential, knowledge or any other thing at your disposal. 

"If the ax is dull,  And one does not sharpen the edge, Then he must use more strength;  But wisdom brings success" - Ecclesiastes 10:10
An axe, when it is blunt or unsharpened, leads the user into an energy-sapping exercise, a vain pursuit, unending struggle. This is evidently true in the literal sense. For instance, if an axe, when sharpened could cut down a tree in about thirty minutes with moderate effort from the user. An axe that's not sharpened by the user may take twice as much longer with even more energy, hence, the need to keep the axe sharpened.  

The same simple truth also applies to humans. I call this process self-development. When a man fails to sharpen his axe – continually refine himself, renew his mind, add value to himself, continually develop his gifts and talents – struggle is inevitable. Such individual will only be engaging in energy-draining activities. Undertakings that should ordinarily be completed in a short while with little effort will inevitably take much longer and unwarranted efforts.  The scripture regards this to be foolishness. Many believe that to succeed in any field, all that’s required is hard work and resilience. While this may be true to some extent, we should also understand that these qualities aren’t all that’s needed. We need to refine our skills. We need to develop our abilities and gifts. Self-development is the wisdom required.

"We need to develop our abilities and gifts."
However, this process is not automatic. As we all know that the axe doesn’t sharpen itself, but the user sees the need, then he goes ahead to sharpen it. Self-development is an intentional process. It doesn’t happen by accident. It requires a conscious effort. It takes commitment to doing the things that’ll facilitate your growth. Thus could be by practicing your craft, studying, discipline and many other ways depending on goals and area of strength.

"Self-development is an intentional process."

We should also note that self-development, like any worthwhile endeavour, takes time and consistency. Just as you didn’t get to the level you are now overnight, you can’t be all you want to be in one day either. But I assure you, if you’re intentional about it, you’d make much progress than you can imagine.  

Be free to share your thoughts and opinions in the comment box below. 

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